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Celtic Spirituality

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Member Reviews

This was a good, well-researched book, but not what I was expecting. It is a good mixture of pagan and Christian spirituality, but the chapters are short and the subject matter is somewhat dry. For someone who is seriously interested in Celtic Spirituality, I would highly recommend this book. It was just not for me. 

* I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press.
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“Feel the cold of the ancient stones against your hands and hear the sound of your own heart beating in the darkness”

“Celtic Spirituality: An Introduction to the Sacred Wisdom of the Celts” is an absolutely fascinating collection of primary sources written from pagan Roman and early Christian perspectives about the religious practices of the Celts. Having this quantity and diversity of resources gathered together is very useful, and I can see myself using this book as a handy reference in the future.

The author has collected a variety of snippets that range from just a sentence or two to multi-page narratives. The sources are varied and include Roman histories and scholarly texts, mythologies, folk tales, hagiographies, and personal letters. The bulk of the book is composed of these primary sources, with the exception of an introductory paragraph introducing each excerpt and detailing the context of where the source came from, the biases present in the original author, and the importance of this passage for our understanding of Celtic spirituality. Besides these brief introductions, the entirety of the book is all in the words of the people who were either witnessing and participating in these practices first hand which is unique for a book dealing with this subject matter and time period.

The excerpts are arranged roughly chronologically starting with pagan Roman observations on Druidic customs, then discussing pre-Christian myths, and continuing through the introduction of Christianity to include the stories and writings of some of the early Irish saints including St Patrick, St Brigid, St Darerca, St Columba, and St Brendan (as well as some of the earlier mythology that these saints’ legends may be based on). 

After reading If Women Rose Rooted a few years ago, I realized that despite having deep Celtic roots, I didn’t actually know much about the spirituality and mythology of the British Isles prior to Christianity. This book provides an in-depth insight into just that time period, and, for this reason, I found the first half of this book more interesting than the second because of its focus on this earlier chronological time period. Some of my favourite chapters were near the beginning with details about the women of the Druids, beliefs surrounding reincarnation and the afterlife, the sacred plants for Celts, and local creation myths.

If you have an interest in Celtic paganism, historical Druidic practices, or how traditional Celtic spirituality influenced early Christianity in the British Isles, I think you would really enjoy this book. For those with roots in the British Isles this would be an excellent reference volume to add to your personal family history library.

*DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC of this book from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley for review purposes.*
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A collection of primary or secondary sources of primarily Irish pagan and Christian ideas, beliefs, practices, and stories.

For each piece the author explains the context, how the story is known, and how it illuminates Celtic spirituality.  The stories range from myths regarding heroes and gods of old, explanations of practices and beliefs, poems, stories of saints, personal witness from saints, and the like.  

A good resource for primary documentation of Irish religious views in the first millennia BCE and CE.
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This 'Introduction to the Sacred Wisdom of the Celts'. It includes snippets (translated from the original Gaulish, Latin, Irish, and Welsh) of manuscript pages, ancient stone carvings, and Druids' spells from the pre-Christian and early Christian period.

It covers Celtic Gods and Goddesses; animal magic; druids and druidesses; reincarnation; human sacrifice; sacred plants; spells and rituals; Holy Islands; the Tuatha De Danaan; the Otherworld; the poet Taliesen; St. Patrick's writings and legends; the goddesses Brigid and St. Brigid; voyages of Bran and Brendan; and much more.
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A fairly quick read (may not seem like it). Get an introduction to a piece and then get the primary source. A mix of Pagan and Christian stories and accounts.
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What a wonderful introduction into Celtic history. Celtic Spirituality by Philip Freeman is perfect for anyone who is curious about the Celts, both the history and mystery that surrounds them. 

Each chapter was super duper short. Only about two pages. Every chapter had a very clear heading so you knew what you were about to read about. 

I read this in one sitting because it was so fascinating, but it is wonderful that you could easily read a chapter when you wake up, before you go to bed, or while waiting in line somewhere. I also like that because the chapter headings are so clear you can easily go back and reread or reference a section. Plus, because it was so specific, it allows one to research more specifically into that topic that Freeman clearly pinpoints. 

I respected the authours introduction explaining where the different sources for this book came from. I also appreciated that in each chapter he put some of his own thoughts or viewpoints to help explain the texts, histories, traditions, or religious practices more clearly. 

I will be purchasing this book when it comes out, as it really is a wonderful and clear introduction into Celtic Spirituality. If the Celts are of interest and do not know a lot this is a great place to start. 

I received an eARC from St. Martin’s Press and  St. Martin’s Essentials through NetGalley. All opinions are 100% my own.
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NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

“Translated from their original languages—Gaulish, Latin, Irish, and Welsh—the passages and stories in Celtic Spirituality are true artifacts of the Celts’ vibrant and varied religion from both the pre-Christian and early Christian period. From a ritual of magical inspiration to stories of the ancient gods and adventures of long-forgotten heroes, Freeman has unearthed a stunning collection of Celtic work. The translation is accessible to the modern reader, but maintains the beauty and vibrancy of the original. Celtic Spirituality includes material that has never been translated before, offering a new glimpse into the wisdom and wild magic of the Celts.”

I’ve read a few other books on Celtic Paganism, but most were trying to create a narrative interpretation of the mythology of the Tuatha dé Danann or the Celtic “Gods”. I put that in quotes because the Celts themselves did not necessarily treat them as such, as they were described as legendary magical people more often than not. This book, however, has this same material that those books build from as well as editorialized contemporary accounts of rituals and practices translated form of their original fragments from church leaders and the like.

Of course, The Celts did not write anything down themselves as this was seen as a way to ruin one’s memory among the Druidic class; many of which studied for up to twenty years to memorize ancient stories. As a result, what we have is through the lens of churchmen who often felt that the Celts were summoning demons and other dismissive ideas.

The material is presented as a series of short passages with a header paragraph describing the fragment, followed by a translation of the millennia old writings. examples include rituals, both described and copied, heroic stories, scathing rebukes, fantastical slander, and even humorous asides. I liked the structure of the book for this very reason, as it kept everything as true as possible without shoe-horning a modern eye on the material, or an attempt to make these ideas practical. There’s a time and place for that, but many of the introductory Pagan books include stuff like that as filler, and it generally fogs up the books that contain it.

I will admit, I’m not really drawn to Celtic mythology as much as I should be despite being of considerable Irish descent. For me, there’s a huge barrier with my ability to pronounce many of the Celtic words, and having to constantly look things up or risk fumbling through it slows me down a lot. That said, this was a well-done book and I enjoyed reading it. It’s a quick read and sets a steady foundation for anyone that wants to venture into the more practical stuff afterwards.
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This was very interesting, though at times I found it hard to follow w/some references that I had to look up elsewhere to understand fully what I was reading.  My heritage is of Celtic origins which is what brought me to this title.  I would read more from this Author, will reference back to this title and bookmarked a few things as well.  I enjoyed and recommend.  Thank you for the opportunity to read this in advance of printing.
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"Celtic Spirituality: An Introduction to the Sacred Wisdom of the Celts" is a stew of bits and pieces Philip Freeman has discovered while researching  the Celts but apparently was not able to fit into any of his many books. So he has stirred up a stew from those bits and pieces, and it is delicious.

Leave this book next to your bedside table. Stick it in your satchel. Gift all your friends with a copy. The brief chapters make it perfect reading for when you have just a few minutes but you want something to chew on.

Libraries will find it appropriate to add to the reference collection, too.
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Beautiful look at Celtic Spirituality and how to make it part of your life. Very rewarding and important to being grounded. This book puts you in touch with the earth and her creatures.
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Wonderful introduction to the religion and traditions of the Celtic peoples. I learned so much and left wanting more. This sparked my interest enough to want to research more into the spiritual traditions of the Celts.
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An interesting book that gives a look at various texts from the Celtic tradition. The excerpts included are short and enjoyable to read so it is perfect for someone just beginning to look into Celtic spirituality. I liked the part on St. Brigit the best, she is fascinating.
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The Celtic religion has always seemed shrouded in ancient mystery to me. I've always been fascinated with mythology and recently Norse mythology. This book isn't necessarily a mythology reference, but it does serve as a wonderful introduction to what Celtic Spirituality is all about. What are the customs, where do the beliefs come from. It's also written in a very readable way.
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I received an advance copy of, Celtic Spirituality, by Philip Freeman,  I found this story very fascinating.  Learning about Ireland and its Celtic history.  A great story.
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